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OC woman finds happiness pursuing education

May 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Attaining a bachelor's degree in psychology is a milestone for Orange County resident Lynn Walker. Achieving it at age 50, however, is only part of her story.

Walker has overcome illness and age to achieve this dream.

Walker put her education on hold in 1978 after her father suddenly died. Then her mother became ill and also died.

Though Walker built a successful career in luxury retail marketing and management, she left it all behind and enrolled in Vanguard University in Costa Mesa.

"It was something deep down inside," she said. "I felt something was missing, and that was my degree."

Walker took another chance, this one unrelated to education. Having been a junior ranked tennis player decades ago in Florida, the sport entered her mind again.

"She came for a tryout and I brought her to the team," said Vanguard tennis coach Mattias Johansson. "I treated her like one of the regular girls on the team and she played up to that level."

At first, her teammates didn't know how old she was.

"The referees and parents and coaches thought I was a coach," Walker said.

Her life experience earned her respect.

"She certainly mentored them in many ways than just tennis and sports. More life lessons as well," Johansson said.

Her final year at Vanguard, Walker met her soul mate, Filippo Beccaria.

The wedding was planned, but was delayed in March when doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of cancer called myxoid liposarcoma.

"They noticed my calf was a little larger than my right and I knew that too, but I assumed it was because I was beating hard on the tennis courts with people half my age," Walker said. "Within three weeks I had the surgery. They gave me a 30 percent chance of losing my leg."

Walker lost half her calf muscle and she will have to re-learn how to walk, but is grateful to still have her legs.

Walker will join other graduates Friday to take part in the commencement ceremony for the class of 2011. She'll be married next year.